When You Can't Look The Other Way
The Baptist Hospital in Tezpur is a fully functioning mission hospital in a region where health care is lacking. Resources are tight. Schedules are busy and the burden of illness is high. Day to day life is filled with managing the challenges of tropical disease, service to a poverty stricken community and difficulty in recruiting adequate medical and nursing staff to meet the demand. Sometimes you can overlook more work when the challenges are so great. Sometimes you find people who can not look away.
Our interest in Tezpur came from the incredible work with disabled children. We found an aggressive model of care that impacted children, families and communities. Disabled children were being valued and celebrated as important members. It was amazing to see and hear the stories of hope.
During this time we also found that some people have that great capacity to see injustice and not look away. This is a story of hope but it is deeply seeded in sadness. It is the story of human trafficking and exploitation that is pervasive in our world today and built upon the back of Children.
Prathiba Milton is a public health officer at Baptist hospital. Her work was to do malaria surveillance in the region to research a growing mortality rate related to cerebral malaria. As she traveled about the northeast region to do this public health work it became clear that there were more threats to children than malaria.
Prathiba noted that children were missing. In speaking to local commuinity members it was clear that children were being trafficked out of these communities and into the urban megacities of Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi to be used in forced labor, domestic servitude and sex trade. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal enterprise globally. It is a 32 billion dollar industry built upon the backs of the vulnerable and oppressed.
Prathiba addressed this problem by initiating a community health response that focused on prevention and early intervention practices. She wanted people to know that offers of jobs in big cities were often illegitimate and methods used by traffickers to coerce families and youth to leave the safety of their homes. In these poor communities, this opportunity to work in a hotel or restaraunt provided hope for a better life. Unfortunately, what many found was that this was the first step in a path to a life of enslavement.
Humant trafficking is a real and present danger to children. We will fight against it and encourage leaders like Prathiba to warn her communities of its danger. The risk is to great to ignore. The damage is to deep to overlook. This life of enslavement is full of violence, humiliation and desperateness. Rescue can restore a path to hope but we applaud strong efforts to fight through prevention and early intervention.